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Students Hope Their Classmates Will See Just How the Garden Grows

January 30, 2014

Category: Environmental Science, Students

sustaingarden.jpgIt's deep in the winter season, but Catawba College  students, Jonathan Buffkin of Chadbourn and Sloan Kessler of Onalaska, Wis.,  are dreaming of fresh lettuce, spinach and kale. The two are making plans  to seed those crops in early February in the new Sustainable Garden at  Catawba.

The garden, which will be organic, is located on a vacant  lot the college owns on W. Innes Street where Buffkin believes "people will see  it and know what its purpose is and what's going on."

One way to draw attention to the garden is with a sign being  provided by Quick Copy of Salisbury that will face W. Innes Street.

The garden is just one of the projects being funded through  Catawba's Green Revolving Fund. Buffkin applied for $500 in "seed money" for  the garden from the fund and his application was successful. He believes  the garden will be a tool to promote sustainability, a healthy diet, and to  address hunger and food injustices in the community. It will help teach  Catawba students about where their food comes from, and will become a parting  gift to the college from Catawba's Senior Class of 2014, which Buffkin serves  as president.

"My generation doesn't know where food comes from and it's  disappointing," Buffkin, an Exercise Science major at Catawba, said. "I  grew up around conventional farming operations and my family gardens, but not  organically. It makes me have to research and come up with alternatives  to pesticides and alternatives to chemical fertilizers.

"The main mission of this garden at Catawba is not even to  produce food – the real mission is to show where food comes from," he continued.  "We're not producing enough to feed the student body, but we're trying to  target people's hearts and their mouths.

"This garden is exciting because it will introduce a whole  new addition to Catawba's sustainability movement. We're working with  different clubs, like ECO (Environment Catawba Outreach) and other student organizations, to try to actually educate our students. We're the ones  who need to hear it."

While not large, Buffkin says that the Sustainable Garden at  Catawba will be strong. It consists of 10 8' x 4' raised box beds filled  with organic soil provided for the project by 1976 Catawba alumnus Bill Godley  of Godley's Garden Center in Salisbury.

"We're very fortunate that folks in the community have been  helping us a lot with supplies. This has helped stretch our $500 a long  way so far," Buffkin explained. "This soil is a big help because it's our  foundation. How do you get healthy food? You start with healthy  soil. Your environment has to be healthy. Good food makes healthy  people. Healthy food makes healthy people. You have to practice  being healthy in what you eat and in how you grow what you eat."

Interested Catawba students, some "who have never even put  their hands in the soil" will be able to adopt individual plots in the garden,  so they "can see their own things come up and grow," Buffkin added. He  explained that gardening workshops are also planned for the campus community during  the spring.

Catawba's Food Services Director, Jason Ritter of  Chartwells, Inc., has agreed to serve some of the bounty from the campus garden  in the dining hall this semester. This will be another way that students  can see and taste the difference in locally grown, organic food.


After Buffkin graduates in May, Kessler, a junior, will pick  up and carry the garden baton.

"I'm on the way out and so we need someone who will see this  all the way through," Buffkin concluded. "I helped bring it to where it is  right now and Sloan will take this thing and run with it. She'll be here  this summer and will work the garden and see it through."

"For me this is an opportunity to bring together all of the  moving parts related to my academic major which is Sustainable Business and  Community Development," Kessler said. "The garden may also serve as a  model for the community and students to teach them how to incorporate  sustainability into everyday life."

Catawba created its Green Revolving Fund (GRF) during the fall  of 2012 to finance on-campus investments in clean energy and resource  reduction. GRFs capture the savings from lower utility bills and other resource  reduction programs, using that money to reinvest in more projects that reduce  the college's ecological footprint. At the time, it was one of 42 institutions,  mainly colleges and universities in the United States and Canada that were  employing this method of funding sustainable projects. The same year the GRF  was established, Catawba received a gift of $100,000 toward its goal of raising  $400,000 over four years to provide the principal for its GRF.

Catawba President Brien Lewis said, "This garden is a great  example of students' leadership and the green/sustainability culture at  Catawba. I'm also excited to see our GRF doing what it was intended to  do."

Track the progress of the Sustainable Garden at Catawba and  other campus sustainability efforts through the college website at

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